Where is Trinidad and Tobago for dummies (with no access to internet)

When people ask me where I’m from my first response is usually a dramatic sigh. “Not this again..” is what I’m almost always thinking. “This” being the endless double-takes, puzzled looks and assumptive questions guessing at where Trinidad and Tobago might be.

So you’ve met someone from the Caribbean, wait, some people don’t even know where that region is, so…let’s go with close to America. That gives a person a little more than “Somewhere on Earth, possibly Africa.” to go on. How else do I direct them geographically if no phone with data or wifi is available?

I use some sort of object like a napkin or a book or failing having any of these, my own palms. I have the person imagine North, Central and South America to the left of what I’m using. I ask them to imagine Central America as having a sort of “C” shape. I then say that the Caribbean, which has a lot of countries, is in the ocean a little further out from that “C” shape and that Trinidad and Tobago can be found all the way down, next to a country in South America called Venezuela.

It’s all well and good if the person speaks English. In the eventuality the person does not, I just say Mars. Why, because…….(I really wanted to write “YOLO” but I’m too dignified for that mess…)

 

 

Or am I?

 

 

YOLO.

Feminism in Korea: The Ultimate Tease!

Writing an article like this seems like a suicide mission, albeit I feel obliged to inform my fellow man. Now, don’t misunderstand. I don’t believe in hating in any shape or form, but there are times in my life where I have wished I was capable of such things. Usually, females were the cause of such emotions.

Generally, I have the philosophy of understanding conflicts rather than adding fuel to the fire by simply hating. At the same time, the injustice, the pain that I see is that men are suffering all over the world. No one seems have the slightest sympathies for men’s issues.

Okay, let’s get into it! Why was South Korea (RoK) such a shock to me?

Note: The above half of the article was written on 6th of September 2016, amidst a mini/personal crisis.

Since its been a good 2 weeks I have left South Korea for Thailand, I can reflect back on that time with little emotional influence on my writing.

So what happened? To be honest, South Korea mainly sucked for me. Why you ask? Well… the truth is I was alone. I felt like I was under attack by radical feminists as I read more into the history and social issues of South Korea. In fact, I had barely any interaction with the locals. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I walked for many kilometers and many hours, yet I failed to make eye contact with a single person. It was as if I was a ghost walking through a town. I was longing the days of being pushed around in the metro/subway systems in China.

Maybe it’s too soon for met to judge South Korea, but I would have to say though, it is a girl’s paradise/heaven. Especially if you love to shop. But be prepared, South Korea is not a budget country.

I will summarise by saying, if you’re a single guy, don’t go to South Korea on your own. You’ll end up returning back home depressed and hungover from all the flavored Soju. Also, I will take my Australian BBQ over Korean BBQ any day of the week :D. I think South Korea can potentially be really fun if you meet the following conditions: 1. You’re either traveling there as a group or you’re a girl. 2. Money is not an issue for you, you can shop as much as you’d like. 3. You’re a young person or have the mentality of one.

I don’t want to sound like an old geezer… but there is much better times to be had spending a lot less money.

Why recruiters on LinkedIn need not to think like a typical recruiter

Ahh, recruiters! You can’t bear them, yet you can’t live without them. Actually, it’s not that you can’t find a job without recruiters, you CAN! It’s just that, you want to network with every possible lead that has the slightest chance of landing you your next big job.

Okay, so we all know by now that recruiters work for the employers (Chinese schools for example). We all know that they have financial incentives by these employers and the more positions they fill the more money fills their pockets.

Most people don’t mind whether or not a recruiter gets a commission for something as simple as introducing two parties. But things get complicated when…

Langkawi – Party paradise or just another tourist trap?

Legendary Langkawi

or at least that’s how it’s promoted by giant government sponsored billboards and tour agencies. Let me paint a picture for you. We came to Malaysia originally to look for jobs but seeing that there would be at least a week where all the schools would be closed we started looking around for a place to visit. The southern Perhentian islands or a trip Borneo were way over budget so were we able to narrow down our options to Pangkor island, Penang island and Langkawi island. After some research, we decided to go with Langkawi island as it frequently came up as a place where folks went to party on the beach and have fun dancing and partying which sounded pretty attractive to us.

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After 7 hours on a bus…we still look fabulous!

To get to Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur we decided to take a bus from the TBS (50RM each)and a ferry from Kuala Perlis (18RM each) to see more of the landscape. It was also half the cost of flying. Note that this isn’t always the case, sometimes local airlines Firefly and MalindoAir will have lower prices, even lower than the bus and ferry combo. The bus take between 7 and 8 hours to get from the TBS to Kuala Perlis and there aren’t any toilets on the buses. There will be a stop at one of the rest stations about halfway through your trip, but I would still advise not to drink too much fluids, just to be safe. Some buses have wifi and electrical outlets, but you should ask for those types of buses when buying your tickets.

After we got off the ferry at Kuah jetty in Langkawi we decided to walk to our lodge because of all the taxi drivers that were trying way too hard to get us to go with them – their behavior made us really suspicious hence the decision to walk.

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The Bougainvillea Inn. A lovely, quiet place to stay.

The Bougainvillea Inn is a nice, clean, budget property not too far from the jetty but it is pretty easy to miss the road leading to it at night. Langkawi has street lights, but they are not the best placed nor are the roads the best made for pedestrians. Still, it was a pretty cool experience getting lost (even with our heavy backpacks) and stopping for iced coffee and tea at a local food stall. We stayed there for three nights and were able to visit a few places on that side of the island, plus a nice night market.

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Zooming around the island on a scooter.

To get around Langkawi is not the easiest as there seems to be no public buses and taxis are expensive in Malaysia, but probably more so in Langkawi – I’d only heard this from our landlord at the Bougainvillea Inn, I can’t say for sure as we never took any. We did rent a scooter for 40Rm for the first day then 35Rm for four further days from an agency on the jetty. Later we found out that in the Pantai Cenang area one could rent a scooter for 30Rm. Oh well.

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Goddess of Mercy at the lucky temple in Langkawi

Some of places we were able to visit when we stayed in Kuah included the Lucky Temple, Tanjung Rhu private beach and the night market. We also had dinner one night at the famous Wonderland seafood restaurant. A quick note on the beaches in Langkawi – none of them have clear water! In the Andaman Sea there are very very few places on islands other than the main, easy to access ones, that have clear water! (There is a rumour of one beach near Datai bay that has clear water but we did not have time to visit it).

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Tanjung Rhu Private Beach

All that being said, the Tanjung Rhu private beach is nice and clean with calm waters, great for swimming and kayaking. To get there just take the route to the public beach. Once you see the public beach keep going straight, past the four seasons hotel and after about five minutes you’ll come to a fork in the road and a security booth with a guard booth. Approach the security booth, you will sign an agreement that you’re going to the private beach and not going to litter and cause a ruckus. Then just cotinue along the road and after another few minutes you’ll see the river on your left and the beach a little further up ahead on the right. The beach is open from 9am to 5pm everyday. You may even see monkeys on your way there or on your way back like we did!

After exploring Kuah we headed over to Pantai Cenang for a few nights. We stayed at a family freindly place called Pemandangan Indah Guest House for one night. There’s a nice garden and a fair view of the ocean as well. After we moved on to the Rainbow Lodge and Cafe. I have mixed feelings about this place – the people we met there are great, I was really happy to meet them all. However the room itself was a little bit of a trial for me as we booked the cheaper option of a fan-cooled room, with no hot water and a toilet that did not flush well. The sheets were a cool travel theme but they were old and were rough from having been in washing machines one to many times. The thing that probably got to me the worst was the wall, which was dirty from previous guests having wiped….stuff… (I assumed boogers, yuck) on them. Each room does come with it’s own sitting area outside with chairs and a little table and a hammock – those were big pluses as I love me a hammock 🙂

Pantai Cenang itself is not a terrible beach. There are a lot of people during the late afternoon so a better time to visit is during the night, after dinner and a few beers or cocktails. Be prepared to spend more for food and water than alochol. Alcohol isn’t taxed on Langkawai so it’s one of the more resonably priced things on the island and on the popular Pantai Cenang.

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Pantai Cenang at sunset


As for the parties on the beach – not so much organized as just you and a group of people you meet at a hostel or bump into at the beach just hanging out and having fun. I would recommend a night swim under a full moon, just go even if you went to the beach without your swimwear! The water is rougher around that time but it’s quite shallow and you can enjoy calmer water if you go a little further in, away from where the waves break. It’s truly romantic to be able to gaze at a full moon as you float on the ocean…better if you got good company ;).

Star Trek III: beyond expectations

The newest installment of the rebooted Star Trek series takes us a few years into the journey of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s five year mission. Everyone seems to be working harmoniously, like clockwork. Chris Pine plays Jim as restless with growing melancholia but, that aside, things couldn’t be  better aboard the star-ship.

This movie has a lot more action than the previous two, something that is quite in line with the original series. There are ass-kicking women, an even more emotionally open Spock and some moments of wonderfully delicate acting by both Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Sofia Boutella as Jaylah.

There is a sense that the characters have all grown up a little bit more. Whilst there is still humor from Bones and Scotty, it is not as heavily scripted into the movie as was seen in the first two movies. It was a wise move in my opinion as there was more focus on a quickly advanced, albeit simpler, plot.

It seems that more credit was given to the audience’s intelligence this time and major foreshadowing wasn’t too much in your face as the second movie. Whereas there were clear clues for the observant viewer, like seeing that the pretty planet-sized station of Yorktown would be under attack and that the alien who had her ship stranded was really in league with Krall.

It was still hard to guess the true identity of the villain as his appearance was unlike the aliens casual fans are familiar with and he changed markedly every time he drew energy from his victims. It was a well played plot piece but  I felt that despite Idris Elba being, well, Idris Elba, it’s actually quite hard to create a villain as impacting as Kahn and Nero respectively. Krall may have been the scariest of them all in that he really didn’t got , or need to go to, great lengths to show off his crazy, neither to his followers, his enemies, nor us. He didn’t spend as much time as the previous villains on screen brooding about how he was going to kill a lot of people and start a new war, he got the missing piece of his ancient bio weapon and flew out – attack begun.

It was truly a less plot focused movie and the layers showcased in the first and second movies seemed to have been missing from this one but, they were cleverly hidden and a lot of the information was shown rather than explained.

In addition to the more mature tone of the movie, one cannot miss nor forget to acknowledge the untimely death of the actor that played Pavel Andreievich Chekov, Anton Yelchin. It was not stated as such but I choose to interpret the toast and the words spoken by Bones and Jim as a solid tribute to his accomplishment as an actor and a person. It was tasteful and well received.

Well, folks, if you have any comments or would like to start a discussion on why the USS Franklin needed to achieve terminal velocity by falling off a precipice, leave a comment below and I will respond!

Live long and prosper!

Challenges faced by foreign teachers in China

From my experience and observations whilst teaching in China there seem to be two broad category of expat teachers – young, freshly graduated “skylarkers” looking for some extra income, the majority of whom don’t really have a passion for teaching, education nor any intentions of committing to a school and, professional, career-minded teachers who keep on educating themselves and keep current with new, effective methods of teaching. Of course there are those who fall somewhere in between; the individuals who perhaps did not want to teach but were somehow led/advised that it would be a safe path for the short or mid-term until they could find themselves in better, more interesting/higher paying fields of work.

My article deals with a few of the main concerns that are faced by teachers that fall into the second category. Many foreigners that are career teachers go to China with very high expectations from nearly all aspects of management. From the very beginning they are subject to vast amounts of miscommunication with recruiters and schools that are interested in hiring them. They are sold the idea that their worth is less than they think, that teachers on the whole aren’t really highly paid. Whilst the teaching industry is not the most affluent, teachers do deserve respectable salaries for all their merits. Think about it, a lawyer spends years becoming a qualified professional in his/her field. Does a teacher not do the same? A bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree are not cheap. TEFL or CELTA courses are not free. All the time you spend learning your skills should be considered by schools and recruiters when they are thinking of hiring you. Unfortunately, that is less and less the case these days.

Education is a philosophy, not a business. In China, however, everything is business. – Mustafa Yildiz

Instead of acquiring professionals that would not only produce quality work but stay with a school that they felt comfortable in, many institutions hire an image that they think would boost the appeal of their company. White faces, light hair and eyes that aren’t brown. That sounds like racism, you say? It is. The small percentage of schools that don’t have those racist tendencies still have the other vice that’s plaguing would-be-teachers – the Native English Speaker requirement. In reality a lot of schools use this requirement as some sort of code for “Caucasian” as they quote a new government rule that Native English Countries are only a handful or the largest political powers worldwide – America, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Why the hell is anyone really bothering to learn English if only these few countries speak the language then?

As a side note, I’d like to mention that so far, the best English language teachers I’ve met have all been second language speakers. There is no way any native speaker could break down grammar the way those second language speakers did to me. All the stuff I glossed over in Primary school and essentially ignored in high school were studied by these people like one studies to become an astronaut. Thoroughly.

Another point of contention are the ridiculous new heights of oppression that foreign teachers’ contracts are getting to. Not only are teachers are being made to haggle and bargain for salaries that barely match their qualifications and experience but some companies have turned it into a game. I personally had the experience of one school allowing their recruiting company to handle the salary negotiations. I was told via email at nearly midnight (it was truly by chance that I had checked my emails that late that night) that I had passed the interview and I had a maximum of 12 hours to submit a salary expectation/request. The thing is, if my salary request was too high it would be rejected by the school board and I would have one more chance to give them a suitable salary quote. After that I would no longer be a suitable candidate.

Welcome to the Hunger Games: school hiring edition.

What if my salary request was too low or actually a lot lower than what the school thought I could be paid? I am still waiting for a reply to that question.

As for the contracts themselves, there are a lot of deduction policies that I haven’t really seen/experienced anywhere else. Among the more intimidating ones were thing like a company being able to terminate your contract without compensation if you did not attend work and could not contact them for 16 hours. Monetary deductions for punctuality and students’ performances in tests, the list actually does go on.

In addition to this there are even some companies that do not even offer decent holiday packages for their teachers. So on top of harsh contract conditions (which one recruiter even got offended and told us was standard fare in China), a low salary and multiple opportunities for deductions, there is also the really depressing cherry of working during the major holiday periods. Whilst your friends at public and private schools get three weeks off for Spring Festival, you get three days from some training centers. Good job, Chinese management.

I have come to believe that modern Chinese management is all about how much you can control your assets. There is a strong feeling that positive reinforcement is weak and would be ignored outright. Western, open-minded ways of teaching are desired on the surface but not in actuality. I even got the impression from some teachers that the unhappier you are, i.e., the more stressed out about your job, the more you give without asking for anything and generally the less opinion you have, the better you are treated in the long run by management. It’s absolutely not true. The more you are of the aforementioned things, the more you are taken advantage of and flat out disrespected by management.

So, whilst there seems to be a lot of negativity in this article, this is only one side to what teachers may experience working in China. As for myself, I have experienced both sides of the coin and, being the optimist that I am, will be going back, hopefully to experience the good side of working in an environment of learning and positive growth once again.

The importance of Early Years Education

Teaching young learners is, in many countries, regarded as lesser work than teaching high school students. One country that is beginning to see the value of a solid, well thought out Early Years Education curriculum is China.

For generations the immense focus on the last few years of high-school has blotted out the need for a stable, Early Years foundation. Parents, teachers and school administrators are desperate to have their children/students attend good universities either in China or abroad. As a result, education is largely regarded as a chore or not as important until late middle school and high-school when students are pressured to not just memorise words and formulas but suddenly begin expressing their learnt knowledge in internationally accepted ways – in methods they most likely hadn’t experienced prior to that stage.

Which brings me to why education at all levels should be given equal weight, respect and attention. From personal experience, I can say that guiding students at a kindergarten is no less challenging than teaching them at the highschool level. In fact, at times, I felt like the former was indeed a lot more difficult than the latter. I realized that I felt that way, especially in China, because of a lack of understanding and support for Early Education practicioneers.

Why would Kindergarten or the early grades of Primary be as important as the last few years of Secondary school? The answer can be found in many schools across China today. High school students in international schools wishing to go abroad to study have, with the assistance of a skewed system, ignored developing their learning and critical thinking skills. The end result is hundreds of teens being forced to attend extra classes on evenings and weekends, memorising tremendous amounts of work in hopes of memorising the right answers for the upcoming exams, a general feeling of never-ending lethargy and a genuine dislike for school.

It is no secret that if a person loves what he/she does then the chances of success are increased hundredfold. Where better to allow students to start enjoying school than from the very beginning? With the right nurturing from the Kindergarten level students can grow into a way of thinking that is open-minded, inquisitive and critical. With these tools (in addition to so many more that students learn in the formative years of their schooling) children move forward through the system not as prisoneers but as pioneers.

Teaching in China: Why you should be lying to your recruiter!

About a decade ago, when I was fresh out of highschool applying for jobs through recruitment agencies, agents knew that I had little to know experience in a work environment (in a place like Sydney, experience is crucial even for the most basic jobs). They were smart enough to give me tips on how to convince my potential future employer how I was a suitable candidate and yes, that included lying and manipulating words to your advantage.

At the end of the day, these recruiters understood that employers weren’t going to be paying me an hourly rate of $18/hr for my looks, obviously they already had a system in place to make quadruple the money invested in me back in sales or services rendered, etc.

Fast forward some 10 years, now that I have my university education and expertise in my field, every single recruiter (in China) wants to sign me up tomorrow. Of course, I had to work hard to get to this point and I have high requirements. When I tell them what my salary expectations they quickly get offended replying with comments like “this is china” and “too much”.

You might be thinking that’s great for you, but how’s this relevant for me?

Here’s the thing, people like me are rejecting alot of teaching jobs that are coming out of China. The recruiters for these jobs are the laziest people that you will be in contact with. The literally see all of their clients (on both sides) as a quick cash grab. You can use this flaw against them.

Are you getting rejected by recruiters because:

  • You don’t have a degree.
  • You dob’t have the citizenship of a so-called “Native English Speaking” country.
  • There’s some requirements that’s automatically disqualifying you from the job within the first 2 minutes.

Well here’s the solution for you, LIE!

If anything, you will be doing these recruiters a favor as they are getting a nice sum of $$$ for every teacher that successfully signs up at a school. All you are doing is bypassing their lack of skill, in other words you’re doing their job for them. I am quite serious about this, lie and cheat your way until you get a chance to impress the school (interview/demo lesson). Once you have impressed the school (and negotiated your benefits), you can bring up your flaws, treat it like there’s been a miscommunication.

Schools WILL hire you if they like you enough!

Chinese rules and laws only apply when it suits them, this means that they don’t necessarily comply with their own laws if they don’t feel like it. I personally have witnessed schools hiring people that don’t have any of the requirements listed on their job descriptions. The fact is, schools will hire anyone if they are desperate enough. That person could be you if you know how to play your cards well.

So, the next time you have a recruitment agent questioning you. LIE! Even if the agent bothers enough to get off their ass to find out that you’re lying. You’ve burned your bridge with 1 agent, there’s 1000’s of others to burn :D. In the telemarketing world we call these people “Gate Keepers”, because they’re standing in-between you and your future job!

5 Tips on acquiring high paying teaching job in China.

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The schools are out, students and teachers alike are enjoying a well earned break as the 2015-2016 academic year comes to an end in China.

Tip 1: Don’t underestimate your value!

Too often I see skilled teachers with years of experience accepting salaries way below their potential. Even if you weren’t a teacher back home, it doesn’t mean you don’t bring highly needed skills and knowledge into your potential future classroom. Never under sell yourself, because Chinese recruiters and schools generally aren’t as generous as they should be (especially since you will be the main reason why most parents will be willing to send their kids to that particular school).

Tip 2: Do your research thoroughly!

This is another very common mistake first time teachers make in China. Training centers and recruiters do their best to convince us that 6,000 – 10,000 RMB is a huge amount of money (especially since local teachers are getting paid less than you *the pity card*). The fact is, as a newcomer to China, everything will cost you more than it does for the locals, even other expats would have found ways to save money over the years. Do you research on forums, join Facebook groups of the region your interested in going and ask around what is the average salary for someone like you (don’t go on what recruiters tell you).

Tip 3: Negotiate and Negotiate Hard!!!

Business in schools is very much the same as in class discipline. If you come across weak, desperate for a job, willing to accept any salary they offer you. You’ve already lost. After your probation period, it won’t be long they will make excuses to pay you less, make deduction from your salary because you were 2 minutes late to class, etc. By negotiating a higher salary from the get go, you are telling your employers that they need you more than you need them.

Tip 4: Know when to accept a job.

If you play it safe and accept the first job that comes your way, the chances are you won’t be receiving the highest possible salary that you deserve. Think about it, when are schools most likely to make the highest offers? When they are the most desperate of course. The trick is to not be desperate to be hired yourself. Let me share a personal experience with you all.
This time last year I was living with my parents in Turkey, after searching and applying to 100’s of jobs I was getting desperate to find a job and get out of Turkey (away from my parents, hehe). It was so bad that I was considering training center jobs that paid as low as 10,000 RMB. But, you see I had already done my research and based on my experience and qualifications, I knew I wanted 20,000 rmb after tax (because that’s what I deserve). It was then that a recruitment agent put me in contact with an international school. Before long the school offered me 22,000 RMB after tax plus free accommodation on campus. Eventhough I hadn’t negotiated a higher salary (since it was the highest offer I had received). They tried to reduce their offer to 20,000 RMB at a later date and I refused. I told them they would either higher me at 22,000 or I wouldn’t work for them (that was a very risky bluff), they accepted to pay 22,000 RMB.

Tip 5: It’s a numbers game!

I’m sure you have heard of this line many times before in many other topics. It also works true for finding your ideal job. If you apply to enough jobs, if you have done your homework and your salary expectation is within reason. Then you will definitely find that high paying job that you’re looking for, there’s no doubt about it.

Pokemon GO! Just another Pay-2-Win game!

After a quick skim of the article whether Pokemon GO was P2W on Forbes.com I quickly realised that the person who wrote the article wasn’t a gamer (especially not in competitive games). The fact is the gaming industry has transformed. Transformed from an industry where people used to pay X amount of dollars to attain X amount of awesome, in-game entertainment. Whereas these days, games have become “casualized” to the point where winning games are more about how fat your wallet is rather than how skilled or knowledgeable of a player you are.

The Good Ol’ Days of gaming will be missed!

PokemonGOOne might argue, that there is an alternative path to playing Pokemon GO. If you wish to simply catch as many pokemon as possible at a relaxed pace, well you can do that. Here’s the thing though, it’s a very limited experience where you don’t get to battle your pokemon or interact with other players. So, what if you did want to fight in gyms and do your best to win battles. Well, unless you’re willing to fork out real world $$$ you’re tough out of luck.It has only been a few days and my friends in USA and Australia are reporting that they are struggling to win gym battles or maintain them (eventhough they have already spent some $$$ buying items). So, what do you need to do to win more gym battles and become strong enough to hold onto a gym? The answer is simple, fork out more cash. More $$$ you spend in-game = more items = more Pokemon = stronger Pokemon.

Our childhood dreams are being sold to the highest bidder!

The original Pokemon game was about the story, it was about the good guys and the bad. It was a story that millions of kids could relate to. It’s a damned shame that Nintendo has Tarnished Pokemon’s name in such a way. I feel so sad, reflecting back at the times I would mash those “A” and “B” buttons of my gameboy.

Goodbye Pokemon! Goodbye the world of games.

Maybe it’s not all Doom and Gloom. Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope that Virtual Reality can bring gaming back to its former glory. Until then, I will continue to refuse acknowledging anything that has in-app purchases to be a game.